Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Police Hassle Political Blogger Meeting

During a press conference at the forum on Friday in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, Hsing Yun said that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one family. There are no Taiwanese in Taiwan and Taiwanese are all Chinese.”

Most people see being a half breed something to be ashamed of. The Taiwanese though are proud of it (The Great One [former gate inscription at CKS Memorial] on Half Breeds)
-- Kuo Kuan-ying

The Taipei Times reported on the incident of police visiting a perfectly ordinary and legal Taiwan blogger association meeting:

Taipei City’s Department of Police apologized on Monday for interrupting a private gathering of political bloggers and promised to improve measures to respect people’s rights and privacy.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏) and Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) criticized the department for sending two police officers to a private meeting held by the Taiwan Blogger Association on Saturday and intimidating the participants by asking them to show their ID.

Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如), a Web manager for former DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) campaign, said the association had invited Hsieh and former vice premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) to a private meeting to commemorate Yeh’s husband, democracy movement pioneer Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who committed suicide in 1989, and discuss freedom of speech.

Two police officers from the department entered the meeting and asked the association’s secretary-general to explain why they were there, while asking participants to provide their ID and cellphone numbers, said Yang, who was at the meeting.

“The meeting was a simple and private gathering, but the two police officers abused their authority and undermined freedom of speech,” Chien said.

Yen also accused the department’s Zhongshan branch of violating human rights, saying it had made several phone calls to the association before the meeting and shown up at the meeting to request more information.

“The meeting was held at the association’s office and no illegal activity was involved. The police’s action was illegal,” she said.

Hung Sheng-kun, commissioner of the department, later acknowledged the department’s poor handling of the matter and took disciplinary action against the director of the department’s security office, Tsai Wang-lai (蔡萬來), and four other officers.
Political blogger Billy Pan has the story and photos in Chinese (h/t to the commenter who provided the link):
5. 部落格協會秘書長告知警員協會專用手機號碼和網路ID,表示如果有需要,我們有活動詳細文案可提供。員警進一步問秘書長姓名,我們也提供了。然後員警向秘書長要身分證字號,但秘書長表示要身分證字號會不會太過份了,後來員警又要出生年月日,但我們沒有給他。在這個盤問個人資料的過程中,市議員顏聖冠的辦公室主任百惠在現場,並請問警察是依照哪條法令執行勤務,但警察沒有回答
....the police further asked the name of the Secretary- General, so we gave it to him. They then asked for his ID number, but the Secretary-General balked, saying that was really too much. The police then asked for his date of birth, but we didn't give it to him. During this process of asking for everyone's personal information, city councilor Yen Sheng-kuan's (顏聖冠) office director appeared, and asked the police what law they were acting in accordance with, but the police refused to answer.
If this type of overenthusiastic law enforcement keeps happening, sooner or later it is going to look like a pattern.

Definitely looks like a cool organization, which I will have to find a way to join!

_______________________
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16 comments:

Arthur Dent said...

If successful, can you let us know the membership application process - i would also like to show my support.

Anyone willing to do a comprehensive study of police ultra vires actions since May 2008?

Perhaps a pattern already exists.

les said...

Interesting that Ma's government is so obvious about these first steps into the control of opposition groups. I'd have thought they would be less overt about suppressing dissent until their goal of annexation is reached lest they spook the population with a glimpse of what will come once they've hoisted the SAR flag.
KMT must be pretty sure they are going to make a successful end-run around the constitution and public opinion if they are this brazen about these activities.

David said...

The Taiwan Bloggers Association website is http://tba.tw/

Michael Turton said...

Really, I honestly think this is just a local thing. The police are simply behaving as they think they should behave, without specific orders to do so.

Michael

Tim Maddog said...

Michael, you wrote:
- - -
[...] sooner or later it is going to look like a pattern
- - -

There's a rather clear pattern. Playing that fact down will only allow the situation to grow worse.

Tim Maddog

cfimages said...

Maybe they'll come to the next blogger bash and start checking ARCs. If it's the start of a trend it's worrying, if it's an isolated incident then it's nothing to lose sleep over.

What is of concern today is the form I got from the tax office after filing my 2008 return. At the bottom it says "National Tax Administration of Central Taiwan Province".

Anonymous said...

Hmm, Michael, then what do you think about the expansion of police powers (banning any gatherings, banning flags, etc) during the Chen Yunlin visit to Taiwan?

les said...

Random chance? I'll believe that when they go harass a get-together of KMT / pro-China bloggers!

Anonymous said...

It is typical of state operatives in Taiwan to over reach their authority, not because they have an real agenda, as much as to cover their own asses if something happens and blame needs to be assigned.

Tim Maddog said...

The editorial in today's (April 2, 2009) Taipei Times has this to say:
- - -
When law enforcement officers and possibly plain-clothed national security agents broke into a room occupied by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taichung City councilors at Taipei’s Grand Hotel without a warrant on Nov. 3 last year, many shrugged it off as an isolated incident.

When police ordered the closing of the Sunrise Records music store in Taipei during Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit last year, there were reports of people being harassed and mistreated by police.

When an 18 year-old student was taken away by police, questioned for half an hour and had his fingerprints taken on March 12 for shouting “Step down” at President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), many dismissed it as a one-off incident.

They also laughed off concerns of a “return of the White Terror era” when media reported that a family member of a 228 Incident victim was questioned by police over her plans for taking part in a memorial.

People easily and quickly dismissed these incidents as isolated cases. But how many “isolated” cases must there be before alarm bells start ringing about the possibility of autocratic governance returning to Taiwan?


[...]

Despite this evidence, some may still dismiss these incidents as isolated cases and not indicative of an erosion of democracy in Taiwan.

If this mindset persists and no action is taken to prevent such incidents from taking place, one day people could find their blogs being censored and the contents of their iPods being scrutinized.

By then it would be much more difficult to stand up, speak out and take measures to redress the gradual weakening of civil liberties.

- - -

Go read the rest, which provides more details about the incident described in this post.

There's an elephant in the room.

Tim Maddog

Amy Lin said...

I already see this as a pattern--and they only need to do this once in a little while, in sporadic locations. The Ma administration will continue to call these incidents as isolated and not part of his policy. Ma saves face with a weak apology, the police gets a light slap on the wrist and life goes on.

But the ripple effect of these scare tactics will continue to spread long after the fact. Add to that the renewed prioritization of zhonghua wenhua by the KMT administration, bentu re-takes the backseat. What you will end up with is self-censorship and self-imposed white terror.

Anonymous said...

There was another incident where one of the very famous economic commentators (deep Blue) titled and article that included "idiot Ma" and was then fined. There was a typographic error in one of the statistics, but since when do typographical errors get fines from the government? The state is consistently being used to attack political opponents of any kind. I am afraid we are return to a party-state.

Anonymous said...

Let me see, police ask for ID and information from attendeeds at an event, attendeeds refuse to provide information, police leave, no one is arrested.

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.

Anonymous said...

"Let me see, police ask for ID and information from attendeeds at an event, attendeeds refuse to provide information, police leave, no one is arrested.

Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.
"

Let's set aside that this was a fairly small gathering held at the offices of a LAW FIRM. Besides that it would be improper for officers to enter any private office building without cause, I think the fact that law offices are often working in opposition to the judiciary (ie defense lawyers), this is especially sensitive.

Setting that aside, you may have a good point if only it was an isolated incident and the police wasn't previously part of an authoritarian party-state apparatus used to keep political opponents in check (ie initimidated, in jail, or even dead).

In the US, police can't even truly force you to produce identification in many cases, and definitely not randomly or because you are at some event.

The police should be tracking people suspected of committing crimes, not people suspected of being anti-KMT or pro-Taiwan. Even if they end up doing nothing nefarious with that information, it's disgusting that they keep that kind of information around. What legitimate reason do they have for doing this?

This event aside, even at public protests almost always you have both uniformed and PLAINCLOTHES police officers in attendance. This is without regard to the size, the peacefulness of the protest, what they are doing...

When Chen Yunlin came to Taiwan, it was found that there were PLAINCLOTHES officers or otherwise undeclared agents creating confrontations and agitating with physical violence. When confronted by peaceful protestors, they ran away and refused to identify themselves.

wctaiwan said...

Well reported. However:

"... but the police refused to answer."

The original text in Chinese said something closer in meaning to "... but the police did not answer."

The difference is subtle, but it's there.

Michael Turton said...

It is not a subtle point but a strong and a good one. Nevertheless, I think that the English is correct. I read it out of the context and the fact that the original highlighted that sentence.

In any case, if someone asks you a direct question and you don't answer, you are refusing to answer.